Canby Fire Chief: Residents Are ‘Afraid to Call 911’ due to Concerns over Coronavirus

The inevitable news of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canby this week has had a sad and certainly unintended consequence: Some residents are now afraid to call 911 for medical assistance, out of fear they may be treated by an EMT or transported in an ambulance infected by Covid-19.

“What we’re experiencing now, on a daily basis, is that people are afraid to call 911 for normal medical emergencies,” Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis told the Canby Now Podcast during a phone interview Thursday to discuss Canby Fire’s role in the response to the outbreak at Country Side Living. “People’s perception is that, you know, they don’t want to catch this by going in an ambulance.”

The chief said people seem to be concerned that the Canby Fire’s ambulances are now contaminated with the virus, or that they could catch it at the hospital.

“Let me assure people that our medics fully decontaminate every piece of equipment in the back of those ambulances,” Chief Davis said. “The back of the ambulances are probably safer than going into a confined area in a store, for example. And the firefighters themselves are wearing masks and suits to protect the patients.”

What’s more, emergency rooms are separating suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients from those experiencing other emergencies, including cardiac episodes, which can be significantly more deadly than Covid-19 — especially if the patient delays medical care.

“We’re seeing people wait far too late to call 911 on strokes and heart attacks,” Chief Davis said. “So, please, if you’re experiencing heart or chest pain, call 911. If you suspect you might be having a stroke, call 911 early, because that might be the difference in saving your life.”

Canby Fire personnel are also following strict guidelines to ensure that they can stay healthy and continue to provide critical emergency services to the community during the pandemic, including restricting entry into the station and requiring firefighters and medics to practice social distancing inside, including when they are eating or exercising.

“Our physician adviser has advised us that they are seeing an uptick in possible Covid-related cases, so he wanted to make us aware of that and asked us to tighten and secure our procedures even more than we’ve been doing,” the chief said.

No confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported for any Canby Fire or police personnel, but nationally, the deaths of at least 22 firefighters and more than 50 police officers31 of them with the NYPD — have been linked to the disease.

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